Photoshop actions to help with Post Processing after RAW conversion

Adrian, a regular follower of the Tangents blog, (better known as the ever-helpful Trev in the Tangents forum), has the guest spot this week. Adrian has expanded on his explanation of the actions that he mentioned in the comments section of the recent article on Selective Sharpening in Photoshop. Even better, he has made it available as two downloadable actions as well.

Photoshop actions to help with Post Processing (free download)

guest post by Adrian, at Five Star Studios
wedding photographer, Mackay, Queensland in Australia

The following downloadable actions with the instructions on their use can save some time and grief on getting a good result after RAW conversion. Even using your RAW converter may not get a fully desirable end result and these very easy to use actions will help in that regard. They are not complicated and you don’t need any plug-ins to achieve a simple lift to your final image.

The actions, while still utilising the features in photoshop, do it in a different way to what you may have learnt or been shown, by using layers and masks you keep the integrity of your image at the same time giving it that lift.

Things like a simple contrast can be achieved in less than 1 second running the action, but, without the undesired color shift you would get with the ‘generic S Curve’.

Once you have run it through the RAW converter, you can still open the RAW file itself [from ACR] and have an image adjusted quicker and easier than during the RAW stage, or once exported, having a batch opening and then checking selected images make further adjustments much easier.

Sharpening is always a contentious point, many varying views, but the one thing that remains a ‘given’ is you don’t want to sharpen skin tones, looks nasty, so running a sharpen action after export could be done even in batch mode to your images.

Another action, cleaning colours, helps lift faces if used sparingly or boosting colours, but in a way that’s not too dramatic. Bit like Vibrancy slider in Lightroom without having to go to LR.

download the 2 actions from here, (right-click & save-as)

Description of the Actions:

Note: Some of these actions will change how your Curves dialogue box looks like. I operate on percentages, not levels based in using Curves, since everyone can relate to a % figure without having to wonder what an Input of 230 Output of 241 will result in, but with percentage base, a no-brainer.

If you want the gritty details, open your Curves dialogue box, click on ‘Curve Display Options’ and check ‘Pigment Inks’ which will also swap your Shadows/Highlights around, dragging down for lighter and up for darker, and if you place your cursor and click on a point, the figures are now percentage based, not levels.

If you want to see what any of the Masks are protecting/enhancing in any of the following actions, simply Alt [pc] Option [mac] and click on the Mask itself and it will show the actual mask on your image. Reverse procedure to get back to full colour image or simply click on ‘background’ of your image.

Anyone who is familiar with actions, can also get out of button mode, open up the action arrows to see what was applied. Some look involved but fairly simple for anyone who can create and understand them. Obviously you can change defaults if comfortable with them.

1st Action Set Name: TOOLS for PROCESSING


1] Gradient POP 20%
A simple gradient map, blend mode Soft Light, Opacity 20% which can be varied.

2] Sharpen 250 Protect Skin
Great for wedding/portrait with lots skin. Sharpens 250%, Radius 1.8, Threshold 0 with a Red Channel Mask protects reds for skin tones. Opacity 100%, can be varied to taste.
Fantastic other colors around faces except red. Gets in between eyelashes, etc., protecting the skin tones.

3] Sharpen 150 Protect Skin
Same as 250 but Sharpen set to 150. Opacity can be varied.

4] Clean Colours Independently [using UK English spelling of ‘colours’]
Great for ‘cleaning’ colours which may have been a bit ‘muddy’. Use sparingly set to 20% adjustable.
Simple use of ‘Selective Color’ adjustment layer. eg: Red is Magenta and Yellow, so I make Cyan -100%; Blue is Cyan & Magenta, so I make Yellow -100% and so on for each colour.

5] Boost Colours Independently
Similar to above, but to increase colour saturation. Use sparingly. Set to 20%
This time you +100% the colours you want. eg: Reds – Magenta +100%; Yellow +100%, Cyan 0, etc.

The Clean & Boost is handy if once you find you processed image still lacking a bit you can without having to go back to original, give the quick boost via actions. You can also add layer mask to the ‘Selective Color’ layer to mask out anything too intrusive, eg: faces.

6] Reflector Open Shadows
A great way to open up eye sockets, faces if a tad too dark, simply using Soft White Brush, paint in on Black Mask around 15-30% opacity until you have built up the desired effect. There is a protective mask on there which will help preserve highlights. Gentle brushing to build up is far better then aggressive brush opacity flow rate.

7] Remove Blues from Whites
Simply use of Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer with the ‘Blues’ set to -65%, using Soft Brush, opacity set to 100% simply brush over the whites, removes Blue only.

8] Sunburn Relief
Ahhh, ever had the ‘sunglasses white eye sockets with burnt surrounds’ or simply just sunburnt.
Brush out on the mask around 10-30% until happy with Soft White Brush.
Simple use of Selective Color Adjustment Layer with Reds having -33% Magenta and -27% Yellow.
Why those percentages? Just cause I found it a nice combo, but feel free to play around.
Only effects the ‘Reds’.

9] Contrast via Masks 5%
Now, this is the “be all, end all” in my personal opinion.
Many people apply contrast via S Curves but that can destroy colours, it *will* change them.
I found a great tutorial [forgot site name] on this a good while back, made a lot of sense, so I made 2 actions. 5% and a 10%
Using Curves Adjustment Layers for both Shadows and Highlights [S-H, percentage based] I applied a 5% for dark tones, but, using the midtone point in the Curves Palette.
Input 50% Output 55%, PLUS a protective layer mask.
Same for Highlights, this time 50% Input with a 45% Output and mask to protect darker tones.
Alt click on the mask to see what I mean. Alt click on mask again to get back to image.
You can change the percentages, but you need to do it in the Curves Palette, the layer opacity is always 100%, of course you can alter Output to different % for each of the Shadow/Highlights, nothing says you need to keep both at 5% or 10%. You may find having the Shadows at 5% plenty but open up the Highlights to 10%.

10] Sepia Protect Whites
Convert to BW your way first, then run the action.
Excellent way to get genuine Sepia tones, without tinting the whites.
Mask to protect the whites from looking silly, they remain white, and it tints perfectly and gradually through midtones to shadows.
It uses the ‘Solid Colour’ Adjustment Layer with a mask, so you can change the colour if you want by double clicking on the Icon in layer, and change to your hearts content.
Default gives a good ratio of Red 60, Green 30, Blue 0; but feel free to experiment as the whites will always be protected.

11] Teeth via Green Channel
Great way to whiten teeth using Curves with Image Calculations on the Green Channel since this gives the greatest contrast between gum/skin/teeth so you can brush confidently without having to be careful. Brush at 100 full brush, then change opacity to suit. You don’t want a in your face ‘Hollywood’ look, 40-50% layer opacity is generally pretty good.

12] Dodge Brighten Eyes
Once again, Curves/Mask Layer Mask, brush in white brush until happy. Change layer opacity to suit.

13] Dodge & Burn General
Nope. Definitely NOT the Dodge-Burn Tool, that’s a useless tool in my opinion.
This uses once again a Curves Adjustment Layer for each of the Dodge/Burn Layers with protective Masks.
Simply use soft white brush, around 10-30% or change opacity on the fly to lighten/darken areas of the image using the different layers created.
Of course hitting X on keyboard you can brush back in something you may have been too aggessive with.

2nd Action Set Name: SHADOW RANGE


Great for opening up shadows, using the Image/Calculations/Green Channels, but protecting highlights, run, change layer opacity to suit. Default 100%

Same as above, but using a ‘generic’ greyscale in Image/Calculations/Grey

If familiar with actions, you can put a ‘stop’ on the Shadows/Highlights Palette Box, to change values before proceeding on. I left it run at defaults of Amount 60%; Tone Width 60%; Radius 300 for Shadows; Zero for Highlights; Black Clip 0.01; White Clip 0.01; Color Correction +30.

by Adrian, Five Star Studios – wedding photographer, Mackay, Queensland in Australia

37 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1Trev says

    Thanks Neil for this posting and offer to do so. Very appreciated, as many in here, I also benefited from Neil’s flash expertise so helping back is a way for all to progress, no matter what stage of life/experience you are in.

    For those wondering re Adrian or ‘Trev’, Trev was a nickname I picked up years ago when I worked for a newspaper and one day said something silly like, “what’s my name again” when filling in a form, and of course, some smart joker said it’s ‘Trev’ and that stuck for years. I automatically put Trev in when joining forums. :)

    Any questions on the actions, please do feel free to ask, if something you don’t quite understand, but they really are simple to use, but in a much smarter way for some of them, especially the Sharpen and Contrast actions.


  2. 2Rob Henry says

    Hi Trev! Thanks soooo much for sharing your hard work with us! I tested them all and they are all great! Thanks again!!

  3. 5Allen says

    Hi Trev. I’ve just tried some your actions using the instructions on this thread – very good results – thanks. Just one thing though, at the beginning of the article you mentioned a pdf on their use. Is it located separately or have I missed something?

  4. 6 says

    Allen … Trev sent me the instructions as a Word document, so instead of having it as a PDF, I posted the entire text here as the article. So my mistake in not cleaning up the text, and a reference to the PDF. I’ve fixed the text now. Thanks!

    Neil vN

  5. 8Trev says

    Hi Laura,

    Certainly, all actions are ‘cross-platform’ meaning they work PC or Mac. [I am sure Neil is on a Mac now, so he obviously used them for testing OK]

    When you say you ‘tried to download’, simply just click on the link, [Single click will move you away from the blog] it will take you to a page:

    Index of /tangents/images/download/post-processing-actions

    * Parent Directory
    * Shadow-Range.atn
    * Tools-for-Processing.atn

    Ignore the * Parent Directory wording, but just click once on each of the ‘Shadow-Rang.atn’ that will download, then the ‘Tools-for-processing.atn’ and that will download. They download immediately so wherever your default location is for downloads they will go there.

    My original actions I emailed to Neil did not have hyphenation in the wording, so I presume that had to be done for the hosting page.

    I am using Firefox browser, and if I ‘right click’ I don’t have the option of ‘Save As’ so either a direct click on link gives me the page, or ‘Open in New Tab’ from a right click gets me the page and simply a single click on the 2 actions downloads them immediately.

    I presume that you thought all the wording and the * symbols were what you were referring to and not the actual action failing to download.

    If not, email me from my website link above.


  6. 9Trev says

    HI Hoang,

    Honestly, I would be unsure, been a long time since I’ve used PS7, you have nothing to lose, load each and try each action in the sets on an image, I would think 95% should be OK.

    If not, simply uncheck the button mode, navigate to the particular action that did not work, and drag it to the rubbish bin.

    A few of them require the use of the ‘Adjustment Layer’ feature, so unsure.

    You have everything to gain if they work, nothing to lose if some don’t.


  7. 10Trev says

    Just for an example of how vital masks are in protecting, enhancing your results using these actions, you can temporarily ‘turn off’ the mask by simply holding down the Shift Key, and clicking on the actual mask itself in the Layers Palette

    You will get a big red cross on the mask and you will definitely notice your image change dramatically.

    eg: Using the Sepia one, get an image, preferably one with lots whites in it, convert to BW via your method, then run the action.
    Take your time looking at the image, now hold shift key, click on the actual mask and immediately you will note the whites turn rubbish, looks terrible.

    Shift click back on mask again and what you now see is lovely whites showing through.

    Some colour images may benefit with this action to give an slightly old time look, depends on images.


  8. 11Laura N. says

    Ok, Trev, I was able to download them. I pressed “control” and clicked my mouse in order to “right click” on the Mac. I never had to do that before, so I didn’t know about it. Then I pressed the option that says “Save Linked File To Downloads” and there it was! They were downloaded to my Downloads folder. From there I just clicked on them and they automatically installed.
    I tried them out and WOW! Amazing actions for a nice, clean edit. Thank you so much for the information and the actions. I will definitely be using these on all my photos!

  9. 13Pat Reynolds says

    Trev – you are a brilliant man!!! You may just have saved me from the very sun burnt groom I’m dealing with from my last wedding!!

    You have achieved Legend Status from me.


  10. 14Trev says

    Pat, thanks for the kind words, but I learnt that from some site as I used to, and still do, voraciously read lots of PS tips and techniques, even though I have been using PS for around 17+ years.

    There are always several ways to do things, but that sunburnt procedure certainly made life easy for me when I discovered that particular way of doing things. Some of the stuff was always just a step by step, but I am a man of Actions [yeah, poor pun] and anything I can convert to an action I do so.


  11. 15Pat Reynolds says

    Yes Trev – I have been using Photoshop for about 15 years too but am always on the lookout for things that other people have come up with & that works for them – like you I love a good action!! Anything to save layering up and laboring myself!

  12. 16Ray Connolly says

    Thanks Trev, really appreciate you sharing this Pal. This is just what I need + have tried it, works great. Thanks again

  13. 17Jon Davila says

    I’ve been accused of using photoshop action once or twice in my life :) thanks for the actions trev, I’ll give them a shot when I get home later today and give them a go.

  14. 18 says

    I tried this:

    Ok, Trev, I was able to download them. I pressed “control” and clicked my mouse in order to “right click” on the Mac. I never had to do that before, so I didn’t know about it. Then I pressed the option that says “Save Linked File To Downloads” and there it was! They were downloaded to my Downloads folder. From there I just clicked on them and they automatically installed.
    I tried them out and WOW! Amazing actions for a nice, clean edit. Thank you so much for the information and the actions. I will definitely be using these on all my photos!

    and I was able to save them to my downloads folder, but they didn’t automatically install when I clicked on them. I’m running CS4; perhaps that’s the issue?

  15. 19Trev says


    The easiest way to install actions in Photoshop is to drag and drop the actions file on the opened photoshop window. This should work both on Mac and on Windows.

    However, photoshop actions can be installed manually: Put them somewhere in the file system, preferably in the Presets/Actions folder in Adobe PS, then in photoshop open actions palette and click the tiny triangle in the upper right corner. From the appearing menu choose ‘Load Actions’, then navigate to where you put the Action, choose the file from the file open dialog and click ‘Load’.

    You can also keep your actions in a different folder, even on a different drive. Just tell Photoshop to load the actions, and navigate to their location. This way you can keep your downloaded and custom actions in a safe place.

    Unsure, here are links on how to load Actions:

  16. 20 says


    Thanks for the detailed info! I’ve never downloaded actions before, only created my own. I actually was able to get the Tools For Processing action to load by following the right-click example (control clicking on my Mac), but the Shadow Range action continues to download as a .txt file, not an .atn file (it actually downloads as “Shadow-Range.atn.txt”)
    I tried out all of the Tools for Processing actions and find them all quite handy; thanks!!


  17. 21Trev says

    Hi Matt,

    Very strange. Why not just try taking the .txt off the end after the download to see if it will be ok to load then. Check the Icon, see if it becomes the .atn Icon.

    Sometimes this can occur for odd reasons, and simply taking off the extra extension will solve it. [Never do this for unsolicited emails with attachments, could be trojan/virus infected, they sneakily add a .txt or .jpg extension on end and the file is actually an ‘executable .exe file which could infect your system]

    If it does not load, then a problem of course.

    I just tried a download myself again of that it worked fine.

    If still trouble, email from my site link above.


  18. 22Trev says

    Another thought Matt,

    You were simply clicking on the .atn, and not trying to right click by any chance, you just need to click once itself on the action after you right click to get to the page itself:

    Index of /tangents/images/download/post-processing-actions

    * Parent Directory
    * Shadow-Range.atn
    * Tools-for-Processing.atn

    Just a thought.


  19. 23 says

    I right-clicked on the Tools-for-Processing and everything was smooth. I did the exact same thing with the Shadow-Range but kept getting the .txt addendum when it downloaded.

  20. 26Angelo says

    Hi Neil

    I have been trying out these new actions, however I cannot complete the entire process in one step.
    Are the two actions designed to be used step by step, or do I play each action individually.
    I am using CS5 for your info.



  21. 27Trev says


    They are actually step by step, some ‘may’ be able to run together but I cannot say which ones now.

    Neil now has a full Action Set where some of these actions are in it, along with his ‘Secret Sauce’ for image pop and they come in all on different layers, so it’s a single click on action and all you just do is layer opacity adjustments on some, or brush in effect on other layers, option also to simply duplicate layers to further enhance that particular effect.


    It’s only $US10.00 and you also get a bonus 2nd Set with some effects in there.

    This way you don’t have to keep flattening layers and run next and so on.

    Of course, up to you.


  22. 30 says

    Alex … try again? I checked, and the link is still active, and the two files are there, ready for the right-click & save-as thing.

    Neil vN

  23. 31Trev says


    I have emailed them directly to you, but as Neil said they are still active for me also.


  24. 32Angelo says

    Hi Neil

    Big fan of your work and I have learnt so much. I have also modelled my workflow on your posts which has vastly improved the quality of my images. However, today, after attending my local printing lab, all my images were far too red in skin tones. The lab uses a Fuji Frontier printer.
    I shoot in RAW and edit as per your ACR presets in a previous tangent. My adjustments are usually a tweak here or there.
    The photos I speak about were of a local pre school (approx 70 children) , manual manual flash, fixed positions.
    All images were batched processed as mentioned with a WB of 5600k.
    My MACs are calibrated via SYDER 3 ELITE. And to be honest, they look very “smick” (not sure if you use this term in the USA).
    Smick down under means sweet.
    Cameras are Canon 1DSMk3 and 1DX, all with a profile of sRGB. Used a 50mm f1.2 all day.
    I use this lab all the time and have never experienced this problem.
    Any suggestions.



  25. 33Trev says


    I too use a lab that has the Fuji Frontier, printing on Fuji Crystal Archive paper.

    Did you get any done again, at a later date? Sometimes, they may have not done a calibration, but I know the lab I use calibrates with each change of paper which can be 2-4 times per day, they are very pedantic about it.

    Did you ask about it at the time when picking them up, try a test print again?


  26. 34Angelo says

    Hi Trev

    Thanks for very prompt reply.
    Yes the machine was calibrated, and done in front of me also.
    All images reprinted, and the same result.
    Different lab, same machine, same result.
    I’m lost here Trev.
    Are you able to ask Neil for my email address where I can write a very detailed question for you to read, that is if you have time.
    I had almost 200 images and I’m not pleased with the result.

    Thanks Angelo

  27. 35Trev says

    Hi Angelo,

    No way I can [or anyone I don’t think for that matter] can give a definitive answer without seeing files, RAW + your edited jpegs, since you may have just naturally occurring red skin tones with younger kids especially if they had been running around before photo session.

    But I presume you have shot them [or other classes in past] with not the same trouble. Sounds like your monitor, or some settings may have changed but if you are confident of them being correct, am at a loss here.

    However, I have sent email to you a couple of minutes ago.


  28. 36 says

    So great! Thanks for sharing!
    The “Sharpen 250 Protect Skin” was EXACTLY what I was looking for.
    Before this, I was either applying a high pass filter to the entire image and then using the restore tool.
    Felt like I was just adding noise/grain to my portraits, lol
    Thanks so much!

  29. 37Trev says

    The “Sharpen 250 Protect Skin” was EXACTLY what I was looking for.

    Excellent! Glad it was very good for you. Much much better than doing something and then having to rebrush it away over areas, like skin, where you don’t want it.

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